Graham Collier: Down Another Road (1969) Fontana

Selection:

  1.  Barley Mow

.  .  .

    2 Lullaby For A Lonely Child

.  .  .

The selection would have been Danish Blue but for the sad fact that it has a scratch through Harry Beckett’s solo. The record’s original owner got a lot of autographs, spoiled the front cover with Colliers autograph, and then scratched the record’s best track. But this vinyl is rare, very rare, hardly anyone bought it at the time, different rules apply. It is wonderful music, unlike almost anything around it in its time. I had to have it, faults and all.

Track list

  1. “Down Another Road” – 5:09
  2. “Danish Blue” – 17:30
  3. “The Barley Mow” – 5:30
  4. “Aberdeen Angus” – 6:02
  5. “Lullaby for a Lonely Child” (Karl Jenkins) – 5:35
  6. “Molewrench” – 8:54

Artists

Graham Collier, bass; Harry Beckett, flugelhorn; Nick Evans, trombone; Stan Sulzmann, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Karl Jenkins, piano, oboe, John Marshall, drums, Engineer, David Voyde; recorded March 22-23, 1969.

Collier Bio from his Guardian obituary:

Collier was the first Briton to graduate from the jazz course at Berklee College of Music, Boston. He was an influential member of the London-based jazz generation of the late 1960s, fired by a new confidence that contemporary composition could finally be independent of its American models.

His group was to change regularly, in size and personnel, which included some of the finest soloists on the London scene of the mid-60s, including Kenny Wheeler, Harry Beckett, and Mike Westbrook’s sax virtuoso discovery John Surman. Collier’s later groups maintained the quality of that first line-up over the years, his bands including the composer/pianist Karl Jenkins, the trombonist and bandleader Mike Gibbs, the saxophonists Art Themen, Chris Biscoe and James Allsopp, and many more. In  an interview, Collier said

 “I’ve been working all my life between what’s improvised and what’s written, so maybe it’s appropriate. I think the nature of improvisation is often misunderstood, inside and outside jazz.

To me there are three kinds of improvising. Solo, which is obvious; textural, which is what a rhythm section often does … and structural improvising, which the bandleader or conductor might organise, deciding during the performance to have the band play the sections of the piece in a different order, or play five choruses instead of four, or whatever.What all this amounts to is that as the leader of this kind of band you can seize the moment.”

Following career as an educator, with commissions for jazz ensemble for radio, documentary,  film and theatre, Collier retired to southern Spain, and then moved to an island in the Aegean Sea, where he died, in 2011.

Music

The late 1960s and early 1970s were years when European jazz in general, and British jazz in particular, came into their own, making a fundamental break with established, exclusively American precedents”  {All About Jazz)

Collier’s other works from 1967-70 includes Deep Dark Blue Centre, Songs for My Father, and Mosaics,  reviewed here at  LJC. Like Mingus and George Russell, Collier combined the role of composer and performer with enabler of other talents. His compositions do not follow any simple familiar ABBA formula, nor abstract expressionist atonal cacophony. They forge a unique melodic and harmonic original path of their own, Collier’s vision, with windows through which soloists can breathe fire.

All-Music Reviewer, thoughtful retrospective assessment:

“Graham Collier’s  works are generally tonally centered and contain melody, but he encourages collective improvisation and stretched harmonies. His pieces carefully balance emotional depth and intellectual rigor, with wonderful harmonies and consistently high levels of performance. This one hits the mark with its carefully constructed compositions and magnificent improvisations.”

So far I have no indications from the audiophile Jazz Revival industry of interest in Graham Collier Music, which is a sad omission. Collier is jewel in the crown of British Jazz.

Vinyl:  Fontana SFJL 922

Cover Art

Costume always tells the story. Recorded in late March 1969, the back cover photo in black and white, of course,  looks shot in the last gasp of British Winter, the band all in shortie macs and Winter coats. Underneath the coat, formal collar and tie, everyone looks serious, like the music, no fake smiles to camera of the selfie-generation, no sportswear brand product-placement, and no Arts-Council grant. It’s got artistic gravity, it’s down another road, authentically 1969.

Harry’s Place

Graham Collier Sextet with Stanley Cowell, Nick Evans, Harry Beckett & Stan Sulzmann, Antibes 1969; Karl Jenkins, Montreux 1970.

Collector’s Corner

Graham Collier Music 1973 concert, Derby Hall, none of the autographs belong to the artists on this recording apart from Collier. Karl Jenkins and John Marshall had gone off to form Soft Machine, my prog-rock friends tell me. 

Ephemeral, this autograph business. “Graham, can I have your autograph, and umm, I guess rude not to ask everyone else…”.  In theory an autograph creates a bond in time and place, to an event.

When holidays were a relatively new experience, people would take home souvenirs to remind themselves of their visit. You don’t give your souvenir to a stranger, a memento of a place they haven’t been.

On the other hand, you could think of it as an artist signing a painting: a declaration of provenance. But then there is no dispute this is an authentic copy of a Graham Collier recording, no need to prove it. 

On balance I think an autograph is a good thing if you were there, not if you were not., and leaves a lingering uncertainty over whether a signature is genuine  – I have a couple of Miles Davis” signed” records, certainly not genuine, and a Dexter Gordon, which probably is. 

 

 

17 thoughts on “Graham Collier: Down Another Road (1969) Fontana

  1. I can find no explanation as to why this, which I consider to be one of the finest British jazz albums made, hasn’t been repressed. Not even a needle drop. Could it be that reissue labels are chasing the cash wagon?

    • I can only agree, one of the finest. I think Collier lacks a champion, with the tenacity to get the record companies to get their act together, find the tapes, get all the licensing sorted out with Colliers estate, whatever has to be done. There is one hell of a 5LP box set waiting here. Its been done for Tubby, and for Rendell Carr, We have the beginnings of the British Jazz Explosion series from Decca, but such a snail’s pace,

    • Interesting new production company, looks associated with Jazz in Britain. According to the website, the source is a1975 Swedish radio recording, of a live performance, presumably for radio broadcast. I’ll keep an open mind.

  2. In my very humble opinion the signature on an album is only meaningful to the person who obtained it and has the memories to go with it , plus ,so many scams have been uncovered that I would not fully trust the marketplace. On the subject of “unusual” instruments in jazz ,things started with a box bass, paper and comb ,bottle necks etc so to me anything goes ,it is the result that matters ,some work and others not. I agree that Lateef is a fine example of positive results.

  3. I still remember buying this. Genuine bargains are increasingly few and far between but a few years ago a record dealer friend had a copy with a slightly damaged sleeve but NM vinyl that he was proposing — with no great enthusiasm — to auction. I said I would give him £25 for it. He said: you’re a gentleman. And we were both extremely happy. Consequently it is a record I am especially fond of… I don’t suppose that will ever happen again.

    • What I really meant to say was: what about that back cover? If you happened to be walking through a wood and you saw that line of men in those macintoshes coming towards you… Well, what would you think?

  4. I’m baffled by your great dislike of artist autographs on record album jackets. This adds a personal touch which many listeners would value. Just think of having a white album with all four lads signing on. Perhaps I view this all somewhat differently as I am also an avid collector of signed first edition books.
    Kevin Jenkins’ oboe on The Barley Mow is lovely, an excellent tone on this most difficult of reeds, especially for a multi-instrumentalist who also plays sax. Finer than Lateef for example.
    I believe Jenkins and Marshall played with Collier and their own Nucleus before joining Soft Machine.

    • It’s interesting to read you singling out Karl Jenkins’ oboe for praise, doomgirl. It’s a sound that I have always thought particularly time-locked — a staple in British jazz for just a handful of years and whenever I hear it I’m afraid it makes me think of jazz harpsichord or jazz bagpipes… Yes, they can be done but rarely is it a good idea. Now, the oboe as part of an ensemble line-up (Gil Evans, for instance) I find perfectly natural.

      I wonder — is it just my personal prejudice or do others also feel similarly about the oboe in jazz?

      • I quite enjoyed Cal Cobb’s harpsichord on Albert Ayler’s LOVE CRY. Hank Jones’ electronic harpsichord (e.g. on HAPPENINGS with Oliver Nelson) not so much. Never much into jazz bagpipes although Rufus Harley gave it a good try didn’t he. Like Coltrane, Harley lived in Philly and studied with Dennis Sandole. Coltrane had his own bagpipes and even once played it at a gig at the Village Vanguard.

  5. My copy doesn’t have the obligatory scratch !!

    Great record. Bizarrely, ‘Aberdeen Angus’ seems to have got a bit of a millennial cult following due to Pete Docherty and ‘Babyshambles’ liking it. That certainly bemused Graham, who mentioned it on his blog.

    The Graham Collier biography by Duncan Heining is also first rate and is warmly recommended.

    Maybe some of these Collier Fontanas will also be reissued as part of the ‘British Jazz Explosion’ series.

    • Just also to add that the Derby Hall flyer with the band autographs (from the ‘Portraits’ lineup) is great. That one came out on the obscure Cotswold-based SayDisc label.

  6. Great record all around, in all its different shades of jazz. It took me a while to get a copy. Unfortunately there is a tick through most of “Down Another Road”, sigh, but then you grab one when you see one. Since yours is scratched, too, the few who bought it either listened to it a lot or were clumsy dudes, perhaps smoking too much herb. Which is what I imagine you did at the back end of the 60ies traveling down another road.
    I wondered why none of his music was on the Decca compilation. I had hoped this might get the reissue treatment one day. Perhaps as always Collier is flying below the radar of those involved. Now on to his Septet’s “Deep Dark Blue Centre” which is a treat, too.

  7. What the estimable Collier did was bring live music to the provinces on a regular basis, my first ever jazz gig was the ‘Mosaics’ version of the band. I remember seeing a saxophonist Murray Hill who I believe came from NZ, found no trace of him since.
    You need to find better informed prog-rock friends LJC Soft Machine were around long before Jenkins & Marshall turned up

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